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Mentor boys basketball: Tanner Toot accepts scholarship from Central Lancashire in England

Feb. 22—Tanner Toot entered his senior year at Mentor with minimal varsity experience. He appeared in 14 games for the Cardinals a season ago, then worked his way into a starting role this season.

With the Cardinals' injury woes, Toot has become a third option. His play has drawn the interest of some D-III colleges, but a different offer caught the attention of Toot.

He accepted a scholarship to the University of Central Lancashire in Derby, England, to continue his athletic and academic career.

"It's a great opportunity to get myself out there," Toot said. "It's something unusual and that you don't see every day. I'm excited for the experience and the chance to be able to continue my time on the court. Through the coaches there and the coaches at Mentor mentioning how good of an opportunity it would be, it quickly shot up my board. Everyone, including myself, thought it was going to be a great fit."

Toot is averaging 8.3 points per game which is third-highest for Mentor this season, behind Matt Biddell and Ian Ioppolo. He has also recorded 49 3-pointers, just behind Ioppolo.

Toot also highlighted his work on the AAU circuit in helping him draw the attention of colleges. Toot played for the Lake Erie Defenders and played against several other strong teams in the circuit.

Toot said he got a lot of extra eyes on him during the summer and that was going to translate to teams keeping extra tabs on him during the season.

"I just need to be over-aggressive and a strong player," Toot said. "Working on my handles and being a complete player who can compete has always been my goal. It was a lot through getting my videos out there and sending them to random coaches. Some of them made their way over to England and it all went from there."

Once Toot got the offer, Coach Bob Krizancic knew it was a rare chance for him.

"They're excited to get him because he has that experience of playing high school basketball in the States," Krizancic said. "We're a high-profile program. We played against a lot of top competition so they know he has a really good background. He's used to the physicality, I think it's a great opportunity for him. I tell the guys from here that are playing in college if they have a chance to play in any of the numerous professional leagues overseas, do it. It's not easy going five hours away but the opportunity is rare and I'm glad he took it."

It took Toot time to adjust to his role in the offense this season. And with Mentor's injury challenges — Ryan Calo has missed a majority of the season and Kobe Frasure-Azzano has been in and out of the lineup — Toot has been asked to do more as well.

He is also averaging 2.9 assists per game and 1.4 steals with the press defense Mentor runs.

Toot has been willing to do whatever has been asked of him to help Mentor be able to win. He also knows having the ability to catch and shoot on any drive and kick has drawn opponents' attention to him in the game.

"It's good for our team to help us stay scoring in any way possible," Toot said. "It helps get the other guys open and brings more attention to me if I can get my shots to start falling early. Being able to run the offense also draws a lot more of the attention since I can bring the ball up and immediately have a look as soon as the ball is near the 3-point line. That then creates better looks for everyone on the floor."

Toot and the Cardinals return to the court on Feb. 23 for the outright GCC championship against Brunswick.